I was asked recently about my view of yoga because some preacher taught it was Hindu practice so we should avoid it. Truthfully, I really wanted to be sacrastic because it seems so many fail to apply the lessons the early church learned regarding practices of other religions. Many would rather condemn than do the harder work of investigating.
I view the world through the lens of scripture being primary and experience, reason and tradition. By tradition, I'm more referring to the idea most ideas have been investigated, documented and discussed by people far more pious than myself. As a result, I can use their input to help my discernment for God's will for my life.
As I did a little research, I found an interesting article about the practice of yoga and the approval of the practice if you just changed the name. A practice which has launched new ministries called Praise Moves, Christian Stretching and Christian Calisthenics. The only question I have is after the name change, "how do people describe their time in the church exercise area to their friends?" My life experience tells me they simply call it Christian yoga. Why? Because its easy and get's the point across. to their friends. They practice all the same yoga positions with different names, Christian music and an instructor who shares hopeful scriptures with the class and tells them to breath in the Holy Spirit. After all isn't meditation a Christian discipline?
As a part of my exploration I asked a friend who is Christian calisthenics, stretching, yoga instructor to share with me the practice of connecting to God. She wrote:
Christian theologian Henri Nouwen writes in his book “Here and Now”, “Real life takes place in the here and now. God is in the present.” When I read that, I began to think, why as human beings are we stuck in our past? Why do we mull over events, words, and interactions long gone by? Or worry or fixate about tomorrow? How come we busy ourselves with tasks that we think will give ourselves importance? Why? The answer is often that we are trying to distract ourselves from the present moment because the present is scary.
In the present, we just have to “be”. In the present is where God is. And in the present is where we hear from God. Well, how scary, daunting, fun, exciting, nerve racking, did I mention scary is that! The present is where we are in relationship with God. Where He speaks to us and where we have the opportunity to answer back. I repeat, how scary, daunting, fun, exciting, and nerve racking is that!
The present is where we are face to face with who we are, not who we where or who we will become. Let’s be honest, being in the present is no fun! We can’t rehash old arguments or play the always fun, but emotionally scaring, “What if” Game. We can’t play fortune teller with future events or set up a plan to manipulate future situations. In the present, all we can do is be still. God knew our wandering minds and gave us mantra in Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know I am God.”
The biblical story of Martha and Mary is a good example of finding God in the present. It is a story of wanting to sit at the feet of Jesus to be present with the Lord and the constant internal struggle of always performing, doing and thinking. Martha was mad at her sister, Mary, for not helping her with the hosting and hospitality duties. Martha saw her sister being present in the moment as lazy and selfish. When she voiced her discontent with Jesus, he responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but only one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen the good part which will not be taken from her. (Luke 10:41-42). In those two verses, what struck me right between the eyes was the word “only”. Jesus said “ONLY one thing is needed”. Only one thing. That one thing is to be present with the Lord. God is in the present.
I can relate to Martha on so many levels and pointing out those ways is for another blog or for a therapist. Yoga is a way for me to be free from my Martha mind and surrender to a Mary mindset. My practice gives me the gift of the present moment where I can meet God and dwell in his presence. I usually fight the call to come to my mat with the reasoning of I have too many other things to do or I will practice once I get the more important things done on my to-do list. Like Martha, I too forget “only one thing is needed”. As soon as I sit on my mat, close my eyes and take that first deep breath, I come into the present. I come into the presence of God. I am no longer frustrated about the past or worrying about tomorrow. It occurs to me that I am still for the first time that day. In that stillness is where I feel my Savior waiting to have communion with me. In that present moment is where I feel God and His glory surround me.
As my body moves into a moving meditation, I am aware that God is giving me a precious gift. The gift of the present moment where all I can do is focus on Him. My breath and movement is a type of breath prayer to the only God of the Universe. As I am breathing and moving there is no space for worry, anxiety, and to-do lists. All there is space for is worship, prayer and thanksgiving. In this present moment, I am face to face with who I am and who I am is a child of God. And at the end of my practice, all I have space for is to sit at the feet of Jesus and be ministered to. I am ready and willing to “be still and know He is God”. - JS
I may not be able to touch my toes but this article clearly touches my heart. The triune God is found in those moments when we are willing to humbly go before him, offering all we have and then listening for the small still voice to refresh. Breath in Jesus. Breath out.